The Baltic Sea
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The Baltic Sea

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"Making Portland shine that much brighter..."

As a reviewer, there is nothing more gratifying than strapping on my favorite pair of headphones and enjoying an album front to back, with no hesitation or second thoughts about finishing a track. The Baltic Sea’s Through Scenic Heights and Days Regrets is a powerful debut album that does just that.

Through Scenic Heights… was self-produced, and if you know anything about today’s usual post-rock/atmospheric formula, you can tell that the band’s production qualities stand tall above most. From delicate to destructive is a general theme for the album and is very apparent in songs like “The Everyday Separation” and “Cry Aloud…Then Explain.” The album as a whole contains flawless and unexpected transitions, tasteful panning, a through-composed feel, and self-recorded samples that are blended in beautifully to create unusual textures (a typewriter, a girl speaking French, a discussion about an artist on the closing track).

Vocalist and guitarist Todd Hutchisen boasts a very stressed vocal tone, but somehow it becomes warm and inviting by the end of the album. His singing is versatile however, and on “Cry Aloud…,” there is a four line part that is reminiscent of a lullaby. Following this lullaby, the next vocal entry is perhaps the most anthem-like chorus of the album. Hutchisen definitely gives The Baltic Sea a unique sound, but in no way shadows the instrumentation of the album.

The instrumentation of the album, consisting of guitarists Hutchisen and Ray Suhy, drummer Jason Ingalls, and bass player Jeremy Smith, almost convinces me that the band could release an instrumental version of Through Scenic Heights..., as the album needs a few listens to catch all the nuances (the band does sneak in one instrumental interlude). The guitars tastefully use double picking over acoustics and play around with chord changes and textures in fairy-tale fashions. The bass stays solid, yet moments in songs like “No Heart March,” where the bass copies the initial vocal melody underneath a sea of guitars, Smith forces you to go back and listen for the bass in the rest of the songs. Ingalls’ drumming style convinces me of a possible jazz background, as he not only punishes the harder parts of the album flawlessly, but also applies Latin grooves to songs like “The Everyday Separation.”

The Baltic Sea’s Through Scenic Heights and Days Regrets has brought me to a stalemate as to what they “sound like.” The album takes the best elements of post-rock, combines them with gentle moments reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate and Sharks Keep Moving (ex-Minus the Bear), adds a hint of creepiness, then explodes into heavy riffs that are dying to be heard live. Hearing a debut album of this caliber actually makes me nervous to witness their live show, a feeling I get not too often. This Maine quartet has a bright future ahead of them, and Through Scenic Heights and Days Regrets is only the start.

http://www.sonicfrontiers.net/php/review_215
- Sonicfrontiers.net


"Through Scenic Heights (Angry Ape review)"

Last time round, Ericrock treated us to a rather fine EP (review link) of dynamic post-rock and post-hardcore from their flagship band Motionless and the Boston-based imprint is set to win our hearts again with the release of The Baltic Sea’s promising full length debut.

Hailing from Portland, Maine this quartet have actually been around since 2001, so it’s a little surprising to see their first record surface some seven years later. That being said they haven’t exactly been resting on their laurels as they have developed a very tight, inventive sound that is surely the result of relentless performing. Furthermore, there has been considerable effort injected into the production of this record, the differing guitars textures sound massive, the percussion and bass strong and the vocals mixed just right. It marks this album as a cut above the majority made by other independently backed bands.

Sonically, The Baltic Sea play an atmospheric, occasionally instrumental and oftentimes euphoric, brand of rock – driven in particular by the emotive vocals of frontman/guitarist Todd Hutchisen. Opener, “Monswoon” is a fine statement of intent, as both guitarists trade intricate chords until they interlock into hypnotic knot-like textures, over a sweeping percussion arrangement. There are parts of this song that strongly recall Radiohead, with tracks such as “Knives Out” coming to mind.

In fact, there’s a progressive influence throughout much of this album and, while the likes of “Parallax” and “Cry Aloud (Then Explain)” meander for too long before leaving it too late to register their mark, both “Impasse” and “Dot.Violence” are absolutely monumental. The former delights with its exuberant crescendo/chorus, gloriously straddling the line between Sigur Ros and The Smashing Pumpkins. The latter, meanwhile, is clearly influenced by Pink Floyd, yet is delivered with such convincing panache and passion that few could fault such an attempt.

It may have been 7 long years in the making, but it has been time well spent. The Baltic Sea are clearly comfortable in any number of configurations and part of this record’s charm is their refusal to bow to genre boundaries as they effortless blend their largely alternative sound with post-rock and prog-rock influences, making a mockery of such barriers. Hutchisen is an excellent frontman and in possession of an alluring voice, which at times has a similar high-pitched resonance to that of Perry Farrell. Though, this is clearly the work of a tight unit, with each member of this quartet as integral as the next. “Through Scenic Heights...” despite the occasional misstep, is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding record.

Tracklisting:

1. Monswoon
2. Parallax
3. The Everyday Separation
4. Carpenter
5. No Heart March
6. Impasse
7. Cry Aloud (Then Explain)
8. Dot.Violence


http://angryape.com/reviews/2008/06/11/the-baltic-sea-through-scenic-heights-and-days-regrets - Angry Ape


"Rising Stars @ The Silent Ballet"

A musician is only as good as the musicians he surrounds himself with, and The Baltic Sea surrounds themselves with some great bands in the post-rock world; ranging from Motionless to Arms & Sleepers, there's no doubt that The Baltic Sea have talent.

Monswoon is a beautifully done little track clocking in at a little over six and a half minutes. The track starts off with fast pace, hard punching drums, soft guitar riffs, and an angelic voice (one that, at first, I did not know how to feel about). It continues in this fashion until about the halfway mark, where the band decides to completely rock out, sending the listener's ears into nirvana. With around a minute left, the track slows down and finishes softly with the tapering of a typewriter. There's no doubt that whatever else The Baltic Sea put out will undoubtedly be something worth looking out for, as they are showing so much innovation for being such a young band.

-Erich Meister

- The Silent Ballet


"Monswoon Review @ The Bollard"

Here is a brainy, poetic mini-masterpiece. At first you may hear overtones of Yes, particularly in Jason Ingalls' snappy, nearly ostentatious drumming, and in Todd Hutchisen's earnest falsetto vocal. But after the super-moody Baltic Sea has established a tone of elegiac majesty — about half way into this long number — they heat up, adding harsher, almost ferocious sounds to the lush, pastoral textures, and things get thrilling: you want to get cut, or walloped. Then, suddenly, the ferocity is gone, and the group is offering a lyrical coda, notes of treated piano, a droning hum, a serving of backwards guitar, and the light tapping of a typewriter.
- The Bollard


Discography

The Baltic Sea (3 song EP/2006)
Through Scenic Heights and Days Regrets (8 song CDLP/2008)
untitled upcoming EP (4 songs/2009)

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Bio

We have VERY wide influences as far as music goes. Anything that makes noises we dig and try to incorporate in our music. We rely heavily on the visual aesthetic employing projections on us as we play. The two go well together, as our music has a cinematic quality to it.